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Equipping Teachers to be Language Explorers


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Title: Equipping Teachers to be Language Explorers

Equipping Teachers to be Language Explorers
  • Exploring language in the classroom
  • Elaine Tarone

Background The Minnesota Context
  • Enduring Scandinavian heritage
  • Other historic ethnic groups African-American
    and German
  • French voyageurs and American Indians gave us
    place names and north country activities like ice
    hockey, canoeing, and exploration

Increasing Linguistic Cultural Diversity
  • 25 of students in St Paul Public Schools are
  • Hispanics are the fastest growing minority
  • Largest Somali immigrant group in the U.S. is in
    the Twin Cities
  • It is a very diverse group of learners that we
    are preparing our language teacher-learners to

Years ago I asked a teacher at my school, what do
you teach?
  • I expected something like I teach French to a
    diverse group of high school freshmen.
  • She answered, I teach Prentice-Hall.

Basic Message of this Talk
  • Teach the learner
  • Dont teach the book
  • Dont teach the curriculum
  • Dont teach the test
  • Dont teach the parents.

Basic Message to Teacher-Learners
  • Figure out who your students are
  • Figure out what language your students know and
    dont know, and what they need to learn
  • Teach that, in ways that work for them.

Language Teaching is like a Trip Approach 1
  • Teaching Approach 1 I teach the book.
  • teach students who are all from the same
    linguistic and cultural background, in programs
    where someone else has ordered the book, and
    planned the schedule, the activities, and the
  • based on some professionals global assumptions
    about the average student

Language Teaching is like a Trip Approach 1
  • Travel Approach 1 I do the tour.
  • travel in groups of people like yourself on
    pre-planned tours where someone else has selected
    popular routes, schedules, hotels, restaurants,
  • based on trip organizers global assumptions
    about average interests and needs of people like

There IS no readymade book that is designed to
meet the language learning needs of YOUR LEARNERS.
Language Teaching is like a Trip Approach 2
  • Language Teaching Approach 2 I teach the
    language my students need to learn.
  • teach a L2 to students from different native
    languages and cultures, in a class where on an
    ongoing basis you choose your own teaching
    materials, schedule, activities, and tests
  • based on your analysis of YOUR particular
    students diverse needs

Language Teaching is like a Trip Approach 2
  • Travel Approach 2 I explore.
  • travel on your own, get off the beaten track,
    choosing your own route, schedule, hotel,
    restaurants and activities
  • based on YOUR needs and interests

Approach 1
  • Approach 1 is EASY just show up and follow

Approach 2
  • Approach 2 is HARD requires special training,
    equipment and skills, sensitivity to changing
    contexts, and wisdom to use the right skills in
    the right context

U.S. teachers ill-equipped to teach students from
diverse languages and cultures (Adger et al 2002)
  • Multicultural and multilingual classes are the
  • Students discourse and learning patterns are
    affected by their culture and language background
  • Mainstream teachers must know more about language
    and culture in order to teach ANY content
  • Teaching world languages requires a deep and
    explicit knowledge of the facts about language
    (map), and the skills to analyze language on an
    ongoing basis (map-reading skills)

Language teachers as school experts
  • Increasingly, mainstream teachers in schools may
    turn to their language teacher colleagues
    (English, ESL, FL) for the knowledge they need
  • But do language teachers themselves have the
    expert knowledge about language facts that is
  • Are they equipped with the skills they need for
    exploration in this new territory of language and

Language Teacher Knowledge Base
  • What should be the knowledge base for language
    teacher education?
  • Is what we teach in our LTE programs USEFUL to
    language teachers?
  • Does it include tools and skills they need to do
    language analysis?

Knowledge Base Just the Facts?
  • Some LTE books and programs conceptualize the
    knowledge base as no more than a body of facts
  • Teacher learners must internalize those facts
  • and demonstrate they know those facts on essay
    and M/C tests, and in reviews of the literature
  • Examples grammar and SLA courses

Goal of many grammar and SLA courses for teachers
  • Show you know facts about the field.
  • Memorize them to repeat them on the test.

Knowledge Base FACTS?
  • The rules for using ser and estar in Spanish are
  • The polite form for greeting a superior in
    Japanese is
  • Research shows that teachers prefer to use
    implicit corrective feedback (recasts)
  • Research shows the stages of acquisition of
    questions in German L2 are

Facts are not enough
  • You do need the basic facts but
  • just owning the map and knowing the names of the
    parts of a canoe doesnt make you an expert
    orienteer and canoeist.
  • You need to develop skills in the USE of the

Remember where youre going . its a much more
complex context than it used to be... requiring
skills, knowledge, and understanding.
(No Transcript)
Can we teach teachers to use facts to solve such
language learning problems as these?
  • I need a way to get these students to use ser
    and estar correctly.
  • This kind of error may require a more explicit
    correction strategy than a recast.
  • I wonder if consciousness-raising will get this
    learner to use a polite greeting form.
  • Is this learner developmentally ready for this
    lesson on German questions?

Reconceptualizing the knowledge base
  • Defining the elements of the knowledge base that
    needs to be provided in any language teacher
    education program.

Three dimensions of knowledge for language
teacher education (Allwright, 2001 Tarone
Allwright 2005)
Dimension 1 SKILLS
  • How to demonstrate a new speech sound
  • How to keep students engaged in class
  • How to recast an error in conversation
  • Essential to language teaching, but not enough
  • Skills and techniques may enable one to teach
    the book -- but not to make decisions required
    in teaching a group of students with varied needs

Dimension 2 KNOWLEDGE
  • FACTS about language / language learning
  • Basic units of language
  • Rules for using definite and indefinite articles
  • Stages of acquisition of questions in the L2
  • Essential to language teaching, but not enough
  • Knowing these facts does not enable the teacher
    to move beyond teaching the book

  • How and when to USE skills and knowledge
  • When to provide a particular form of corrective
    feedback to learners
  • Why Group Activity X helps learners to move from
    Stage 2 to Stage 3 question formation
  • How and when to analyze a sentences structure
  • The ability to USE implicit skills and explicit
    knowledge is what enables one to move beyond
    teaching the book to teaching students.

John Dewey Pragmatism
(Hickman Alexander, 1998)
  • Education of language teachers should not be
    simply teaching dead facts
  • Skills and knowledge learned should be fully
    integrated into their lives
  • Learn by doing not just knowledge, not just
    skills, but skills that put knowledge to use
  • Teacher learning requires a combination of
    content mastery, skills development and

Is the knowledge base implicit or explicit?
  • Implicit unconscious, unanalyzed, unstated, not
    the focus of attention
  • Explicit conscious, analyzed, verbalized, the
    focus of attention

Language Learner Knowledge
  • May be almost entirely implicit, particularly for
    a native speaker or a student from a program
  • Communicative Language Teaching
  • Natural Approach
  • Language immersion with little language focus
  • Implicit knowledge of the language is not an
    adequate knowledge base for language teaching

Language Teacher Knowledge
  • Language teacher knowledge is both implicit and
  • Skills are implicit
  • Knowledge of facts is explicit
  • Ability to use both is both implicit and explicit

  • Language teachers need to know more than just the
  • Language teachers must have explicit knowledge
    about the way language is structured, and know
    how to analyze and sometimes talk about language
  • Language teacher educators have the job of
    helping teacher learners make their implicit
    knowledge about language EXPLICIT (fostering the
    aha! moment).

Teaching Grammar as Fact AND Process
  • Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman (1999) The
    Grammar Book (supplement w/Yule 1999).
  • Approach to teaching L2 grammar to
    teacher-learners (described in Tarone and
    Lazaraton, 2005)
  • Facts of English grammar presented in terms of
    Form, Use, Usage

Example English passive
  • Form of the be passive the prescriptive rule
  • Describe syntactic rules The patient, or
    receiver of the action, becomes the subject of
    the passive sentence.
  • The midfielder kicks the ball.
  • The ball is kicked by the midfielder.
  • Use of the be passive the function or meaning
  • use the passive to foreground the patient, and
    background or even delete the agent
  • Usage of the be passive the descriptive rule
  • The get passive may be more common.
  • Speakers seldom include the agent in by phrase

Usage Studies and Applications
  • Teacher-learners are asked to compare
    prescriptive grammar rules in the book with
    actual usage (descriptive rules)
  • Usage studies they ask a RQ, gather data,
    analyze it, and compare
  • Then they consider implications for pedagogy

If I would have known
  • FORM Book rule for past counterfactuals
  • If I had known, I
  • If I would have known, I
  • Noriko Ishihara

After this grammar course, teacher-learners can
  • Move beyond the book, treating textbook grammar
    rules as prescriptive, not descriptive
  • Confidently analyze grammar usage by native
    speakers in the real world, and compare it to the
    grammar rules in the book
  • Transfer that new knowledge into their own
    language classrooms, considering implications for
    pedagogy -- perhaps, ways to transmit the
    knowledge implicitly to their students

  • LTE programs often now require teacher-learners
    to take a course on second language acquisition
    (SLA) research
  • Rationale language teachers ought to understand
    how their students learn foreign languages
  • Problem the content of SLA courses focus on
    knowledge, not skills or understanding

  • Proponents of these courses argue they teach how
    to evaluate published SLA research.
  • Is this knowledge useful for language teachers?
    (Freeman Johnson 1998)
  • Is this knowledge all that language teachers need?

Many SLA teachers are happy if at the end of the
course, their teacher-learners can say things
like this
  • Research shows that teachers prefer to use
    implicit corrective feedback (recasts)
  • Research shows the stages of acquisition of
    questions in German L2 are

  • Intro SLA books cover prominent SLA theories and
    theorists, and research that supports or
    contradicts them
  • Published research studies hot off the press,
    the newer the better
  • Evaluation essay tests or papers focused on
    demonstrating knowledge of the facts

Id like to propose a different kind of SLA
course for language teachers to FOCUS ON THE
  • Provides a broad overview of state of knowledge
    in the field, the main theories, and most
    generally agreed upon facts about SLA derived
    from research
  • An intro course does not get into detailed
    theoretical nuances, research design, or the very
    latest published findings
  • Provides teacher-learners with the tools to
    analyze the language of learners FOR THEMSELVES,
    and opportunities to practice using those tools
    in a lab setting before trying them on their own
  • Asks them to consider pedagogical implications of
    their analyses

Goal of Lab Case Studies
  • Through carrying out their own case study
    analyses of learner language, teacher learners
  • Develop a deeper understanding of SLA research by
    DOING it (learn by doing)
  • Develop analytical skills to better understand
    language learning in their own classrooms (local
  • Develop confidence in assessing the usefulness of
    published SLA research for their own context
    (move away from subservience toward

  • Provide teacher-learners with video clips of
    actual L2 learners
  • Provide teacher-learners with transcripts of the
    language produced on those video clips
  • Set up pair-work activities focused on
    identifying particular interlanguage features in
    the learner language samples they have
  • Report what they see and reflect on what they
    have and havent learned

  • Commercially available option (used differently)
  • Teemant Pinnegar, 2002
  • Make your own
  • Forthcoming book for ESL, with videos
  • Tarone Swierzbin
  • Planned CARLA site for FL videos

Transcript Barbara
  • I have two years and a half, two years and a half
    have been in USA and I came from Guatemala. And I
    stay for three month, an first in Las Vegas,
    then my dad didnt like Las Vegas, so we came...
    My dad before work in Geneva, thats a company,
    and he, he work there, he was a welder, welder.

Lab in LTE Provides Supportive Context for
  • How to use knowledge of language structure as a
    tool to analyze language
  • How learner language changes in changing contexts
  • How to think about best pedagogy to use in
    response to learner language needs

Equip teacher-learners to be language explorers
  • Give them knowledge about the structure of
  • Give them knowledge about the way second
    languages are learned
  • Give them practice analyzing the language that
    learners produce
  • Help them reflect on pedagogical implications
  • And they will have tools to take pedagogical
    action in meeting the local needs of language
    students in their own classes.
  • They will be well-equipped to be

Language Explorers
  • language teachers who can do more than just
    survive in the new territories of linguistically
    and culturally diverse language classrooms ---

will be enabled to thrive there!
Theyll know when to portage past rough water
and come to places we ourselves may never see.
  • Adger, C. T., Snow, C.E., Christian, D. (Eds.)
    (2002). What teachers need to know about
    language. McHenry, Ill Delta Systems Co., Inc
    Washington, D.C. Center for Applied Linguistics
  • Allwright, D. (2001). Three major processes of
    teacher development and the appropriate design
    criteria for developing and using them. In B.
    Johnston S. Irujo, Eds., Research and practice
    in language teacher education Voices from the
    field. (pp. 115-134). CARLA Working Paper 19.
    Minneapolis, MN Center for Advanced Research on
    Language Acquisition (CARLA).
  • Allwright, D. (2003). Exploratory practice
    Re-thinking practitioner research in language
    teaching. Language Teaching Research 7, 113-141.
  • Celce-Murcia, M. Larsen-Freeman, D., with
    Williams, H. (1999). The Grammar Book An ESL/EFL
    teachers course. (2nd ed.) Boston Thomson
  • Freeman, D. Johnson, D. (1998).
    Re-conceptualizing the knowledge-base of language
    teacher education, TESOL Quarterly, 32, 397-418.
  • Hickman, L. Alexander, T. (1998). The Essential
    Dewey Vols. I and II. Bloomington, IN Indiana
    University Press.
  • Lightbown, P., Spada, N. (2006). How Languages
    Are Learned, 3rd ed. Oxford Oxford University
  • Tarone, E. (2006) The language classroom A
    co-production of all participants, in S. Gieve
    and I. K. Miller (Eds.), Directions in Classroom
    Language Learning and Teaching A festschrift for
    Dick Allwright. (pp. 163-174). New York Palgrave

References (cont.)
  • Tarone, E. Allwright, D. (2005). Language
    teacher-learning and student language-learning
    Shaping the knowledge base, in D.J. Tedick (Ed.),
    Second Language Teacher Education International
    Perspectives (pp. 5-23). Lawrence Erlbaum
  • Tarone, E. Lazaraton, A. (2005). The
    teacher-learner as fellow scholar A model for
    ESL teacher education, in J. Frodesen C. Holten
    (Eds.), The Power of Context in Language Teaching
    and Learning - A Festschrift in Honor of Marianne
    Celce-Murcia. (pp. 55-66). Boston Thomson
  • Teemant, A. Pinnegar, S. (2002). The Second
    Language Acquisition Case. Provo, UT BEEDE
    Program, Brigham Young University. Order
    Mary Jo Tansy, Creative Works Dept, (801)
  • Yule, G. (1997). Referential Communication Tasks.
    Mahwah, NJ Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Yule, G. (1999). Explaining English Grammar.
    Oxford Oxford University Press.
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